Thirty percent of children in California are overweight or obese, which drastically increases their risk of developing fatal diseases as adults, including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Eating well and exercising helps children maintain a healthy weight. But there are significant barriers to healthy food and exercise, especially for kids living in poverty. Nearly one in four Californian kids has limited or inconsistent food access, and three out of four low-income families say cost is a significant barrier to eating healthy meals. These families are more likely to live farther away from supermarkets and closer to convenience stores and fast-food restaurants, and are also less likely to live in walkable neighborhoods or near safe recreational areas in which to exercise. These and other barriers make low-income children over twice as likely to be obese than their more affluent peers.
Programs designed to increase the availability of healthy food in schools and communities such as CalFresh and Free and Reduced Price Meals are important to kids and families struggling with food access. The Shaping Healthy Choices Program developed at the University of California, Davis uses the Common Core curriculum to teach children about nutrition and encourage gardening, healthy cooking and exercise in elementary schools. In just one year, students in this program ate up to 40 percent more vegetables and the percentage of overweight and obese children dropped from 56 to 38 percent.
Pro-Kid® Policy Agenda
California should take a comprehensive approach to childhood obesity by ensuring children have adequate time to exercise, offering nutrition education in schools and supporting access to healthy choices in and out of school.
Today, fewer California children are obese in part due to small investments in physical education and school nutrition. California has taken steps to help give children access to drinking water and healthier food at school. But much more must be done, including reducing the consumption of sugary beverages and increasing access to nutritious meals and snacks during the summer and in after school programs.